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Charles Rampling

Over the weekend of 18/19 April 2020, rural Nova Scotia saw the worst mass shooting incident in Canadian history. The perpetrator, Gabriel Wortman, aged 51, was responsible for the deaths of 22 people, and three injured. Wortman was killed by a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer at a service station on 19 April.

As with the École Polytechnique mass shooting in Montréal in December 1989, where 15 were killed including the perpetrator, the Nova Scotia shootings resulted in major changes to Canada’s gun control laws.

Regulations covering personal possession of firearms in Canada, while not as restrictive as some of those in Europe – for example the UK – were certainly far more onerous than those commonly applied in the US.

Wortman had a firearms license at one point, but had been found guilty of assault in 2002. Consequently, he was put on probation, obliged to undergo anger management counselling and banned from the possession of weapons. However, probation meant that Wortman did not have a criminal record. Later, in 2013, a neighbour reported Wortman to the police, for domestic violence and possession of a substantial quantity of weapons, believed to be illegally held.

Nothing was done.

A Rapid Response

The aftermath of the Nova Scotia mass shooting included a rapid response from the Canada’s left-of-centre Trudeau government, which had been promising new gun control measures since its election.

Nova Scotia provided the catalyst to act against ‘assault weapons‘ and ‘military-style weapons.‘ Under the terms of the new law some 1,500 different weapons have been banned, but what was included on the banned list initially led to some confusion and subsequently, indeed, astonishment.

As one might imagine, prominent on the banned list are M16, M4, AR-15 and AR-10 type rifles. Perplexing, however, was the listing of the Blackwater BW-15, an Airsoft toy gun; AR15. com – a website on the M16/AR-15 platform; and the Black Rifle Company, who are best known as supplier of (excellent) coffee.

To be fair, over ten years ago Blackwater PMC ordered 400 AR receivers, though only 50 were ever built: Black Rifle was the name of a small Arizona-based company that made AR receivers: and the company that owned the AR15.com site did manufacture AR receivers once upon a time.

Some of the other items on the banned list are even more curious.

For example, it is difficult to believe that Canadian civilians are sitting on 60mm, 81mm and 120mm mortars sourced from Argentina, Austria and Chile.

Standalone and UBGL40 mm grenade launchers are listed.

We are moving into eyebrow-raising X-Files territory with inclusion of the RPG-2 and RPG-7, as well as most current light anti-tank weapons including the M72 among many others. Canadian lawmakers even list the M40A1 106mm recoilless rifle, as well as World War 2 anti-tank rifles from Britain, Finland, Germany, Japan and the Soviet Union.

Since when has a Soviet M1942 45mm anti-tank gun been an assault weapon?

And how many Canadians use the Japanese Type 97 20mm anti-tank rifle – which weighs some 52 kg and was last built in 1943 – to rampage around the countryside and shoot up the towns?

Canadian law goes on to name a selection of US, European, Soviet and even Iranian anti-tank missiles as newly-banned items. One wonders if Canadians really are in the habit of picking up their TOW or JAVELIN missiles under a local bar counter. Perhaps to go with their air defence weapons? We’re only mildly surprised that STRELA, IGLA, STINGER and STARSTREAK all make the list…